Citizens can breathe clean air this winter as farm fires down by 50%, claims new study

Shimona Kanwar

In a good news for the elderly and people with respiratory ailments, fire counts due to crop residue burning in Punjab and Haryana have overall reduced by 50% if one compares the data of previous 8 years. However, it is expected that by Diwali, there will be an upsurge in these fire counts due to crop residue burning but experts claim that even then, the count will be still less as compared to previous years.
The study was conducted by a team of experts from PGI and Panjab university using NASA satellite data,.“ Based on this data, it is thus predicted that air quality will improve overall,” said Dr Ravindra Khaiwal, additional professor of Environment Health, School of Public Health and department of community medicine, PGI.
The decline in crop residue burning has been attributed to various factors, including mixed crop policy, intermittent rains, extensive awareness, lockdown and availability of farming machines. “As the paddy crop is wet due to rains, there might be burning of these crops by next month. We need to be vigilant. Moreover, mixed crop policy has reduced crop residue burning by 12%,” said Dr Suman Mor from the Department of Environment Studies, Panjab University.
Analysing the meteorological data, the scientists have predicted that there will be no rain for another fortnight. Thus, during this dry spell, a peak expected in another one week. “Fire crackers will be blamed for the pollution, but stubble burning will be a contributing factor too,” said Khaiwal.
The fire count data also shows that this year, Haryana showed an increase by 10% in crop residue burning as compared to last year, while Punjab showed 60% decline as compared to last year. Usually, the peak of crop residue burning starts at the end of October and first week of November. “Even while there might be a spike in the fire counts soon, overall, the cases will be less. Therefore, there will be a good air quality,” said Khaiwal.